Peter has over 15 years of experience in customer service, contact centers, technology and operations spanning startup, growth stage and enterprise organizations globally.
When considering the future of customer service, the industry is largely evaluating new call center technology and the growth of artificial intelligence. This makes sense: the market for AI in call centers is projected to reach $4.1 billion by 2027–a significant increase from its value of $800 million in 2019.
However, while advancements in technology will undoubtedly continue to help power and improve the industry and customer experiences, it's equally important to consider how customer service leadership will evolve. As companies increasingly recognize the importance of customer experience and its impact on revenue and brand loyalty, the role of the customer service leader is evolving to encompass a much broader scope and set of responsibilities.
Contact and call center leaders are developing a more comprehensive focus on improving customer experiences by devoting more time to influencing, collaborating, and driving change throughout the organization to unlock the more customer value.
This transformation requires customer service leaders to become catalysts for change across different departments, work in partnership to identify and address customer pain points, enhance products and services, and create a frictionless customer experience. Customer service leaders will proactively address customers' needs before problems arise, creating a more proactive approach to customer service vs the traditional approach of being largely reactive to the needs and demands of customers as they arise.
To quote one of our clients, Michael Callahan, the Vice President of E-Commerce and Customer Experience at Orbit:
"Mind the gap, but also fill the gap."
By addressing customer issues before they ever arise, companies can improve the overall customer experience, build stronger relationships with their customers, and grow bottom-line revenue.
Customers consider the overall experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services. At the most basic level, they expect companies to be responsive, efficient, and helpful. Beyond that, customer expectations now include the ability to connect with customer service representatives through various channels, including phone, email, chatbots, and social media.
They also expect a consistent, personalized omnichannel experience, with their data and preferences synced across all touchpoints so they can seamlessly interact with an organization without losing context or information. They want companies to understand their preferences and anticipate their needs, with recommendations and solutions that are tailored to suit their individuality–and problems resolved on the first contact.
Customers also appreciate self-service options, with access to online resources and tools that enable them to find answers to common questions and efficiently resolve issues or inquiries on their own.
A clear gap exists between customer needs, expectations, and customer service, with studies showing that only 19% of consumers believe customer service is exceeding expectations.
Customer service leaders are typically the people within the organization who are responsible for closing this gap, however, a challenge they face sits deep within their data and a limitation of having the insights to effectively address the customer challenges. For example, a metric like customer effort scores may tell customer service leaders the level of effort associated with customers’ resolving an issue, but it doesn’t explain why it takes so much effort–and how organizations can help reduce this effort.
Or take NPS, the previous gold standard for measuring customer loyalty. Gartner has now predicted that 75% of companies will stop measuring NPS because it doesn’t relay the context of the customer’s issue–and therefore fails to provide information that call and contact centers can act on.
In addition to limited information, customer service leaders have historically had to take a reactive role in managing customer needs. Instead of focusing on prevention, contact and call centers have been managing the symptoms of customer issues instead of the root cause. Specifically, customer service leaders’ metrics have focused on the response to a customer’s need (e.g. ASA, AHT) versus the ability to address the core reason for contact at scale.
Consider the potential of customer service teams of understanding the issues that are driving the contact in the first place. If you can understand exactly what is causing customers to contact support, then you’ve found the key to truly transforming the customer journey. The ability of customer service leaders to execute impactful changes across an entire organization is a win for everyone: customers have better experiences, the business can reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction, and customer service reps can focus more of their time on value-generating activities.
For scalable organizational success, call and contact center leaders must shift toward proactive service delivery that meets customer needs at scale. Here are some of the prime focuses call and contact center managers will turn their attention towards as complexity and demands continue to increase.
Customer demand is the number one driver of costs for call and contact centers, but most systems still focus on measuring the response to customer inquiries rather than the true reasons behind them.
While addressing customer issues quickly and efficiently is crucial for improving the customer experience and brand loyalty, understanding the underlying motivations and root causes of customer contact is even more valuable.
These insights allow businesses to truly understand what customers are looking for, what challenges they experience, and how they need to interact with services and products. They tell you exactly what challenges are occurring throughout the customer journey from the moment a potential customer interacts with a brand to after they purchase and use the product or service.
By considering customer demand in this way–and not just the number of requests or inquiries received from customers–companies can solve both current issues and prevent them from happening in the future.
When it comes to customer service, relying solely on anecdotal feedback and small sample sizes–such as those collected through customer surveys–often doesn’t provide the confidence and objectivity that the C-suite looks for. But if contact centers can only analyze a few customer calls or online reviews, it’s understandably challenging to have a complete and accurate understanding of the customer experience and any issues they might be facing.
These limitations mean this data typically can’t convince the C-suite of the need for significant changes in the organization's customer service approach.
To truly lead with irrefutable data, service leaders must gather data that is objective and centered entirely around the needs of customers. This data must be validated at scale and quantified with metrics that can drive decisions, such as those related to revenue, customer sentiment, and cost.
At Operative Intelligence, we analyze 100% of inbound interactions and then break down opportunities to increase revenue by removing paint points, enabling self service, making it easier for customers, and more.
Here’s an example dashboard:
You can dive deeper–into a list of customer pain points ranked by volume–and then drill down even further into each opportunity:
The platform shows the number of impacted customers, the service cost to the business, and the sentiment of this part of the customer experience–which is exactly what executives want to understand.
With this precise data, service leaders can build a compelling case for change that is likely to be embraced by the decision makers of the organization. By gathering and presenting data in this way, contact center managers help to ensure that customer service is viewed as a strategic asset.
It's no longer enough to use call boards to share the customer experience.
Armed with irrefutable data and context, customer service leaders can create a complete story of the customer journey–including exactly where the issues arise. The secret lies in augmenting the “voice of the customer” at scale with quantifiable business metrics, to create a compelling case for the customers’ needs and the business case for change.
When you have data on every issue explained in your customers’ own words, you can share customers’ interactions with products and brands exactly how they experience it.
By bringing customers’ needs to light, customer service leaders can build a compelling case to present to executives. Sharing complete stories that highlight pain points and challenges that customers face makes it easier for executives to understand exactly why specific changes are necessary. Departments can then work together to address the specific issues that are causing the most customer contact–leading to better products, services, and customer experiences.
For example, suppose a contact center for a financial institution identifies that one of the reasons most customers are reaching out to them is that they can’t transfer funds from a brokerage account to an external bank account. Instead of customer service teams having to “fill in the gap,” they can now bring organization-wide alignment so this problem can be solved before customers experience it.
The power of customer demand insights means that a customer service leader can pinpoint exactly how many customers experience this issue, prioritize this against all other issues simply and clearly, as well as present an objective business case for fixing the issue as well as the improvement to the customer experience.
With all departments aligned on the root cause of customer issues, everyone can understand their roles in addressing the root cause of the problem and work toward the common goal of delivering a frictionless customer experience.
Let’s go back to the example of customers trying to move funds from their brokerage accounts to external bank accounts on their own. The engineering and product team can update online banking capabilities so that customers can access this self-service function, while design teams can adjust the platform so it’s simpler to complete this action. Customer success and product teams can also align on developing support documentation on this workflow.
When the entire organization addresses customer challenges at its root, the result is a meaningful reduction in customer effort and fewer customer contacts. This creates more capacity for customer service teams to turn their focus to value-generating activities.
Traditionally, customer service has been viewed as a “cost center” rather than a revenue generator since teams spend most of their time resolving customer issues and complaints rather than driving revenue. However, by addressing the root causes that drive customer contact, contact centers can increase the number of value-generating interactions they’re having at scale. Using the right software, customer service leaders can identify which customer issues can be eliminated as much as possible–effectively freeing up enough of their agents' time so that the majority of interactions can focus on value generation instead of addressing customer issues.
This allows customer service departments to become strategic assets that increase customer loyalty and lifetime value.
With an increased focus on data, storytelling, and addressing the root causes of customer contact, customer service leaders are seeing more opportunities to drive organization-wide innovation and growth.
This means the future of customer service leaders will extend beyond the contact center and traditional contact center metrics. Instead, they’ll impact the entire customer experience by spending more time collaborating and driving changes across the organization.
I’d like to bring us back to the Operative Intelligence dashboard I touched on earlier to demonstrate how our platform was designed to help customer service leaders fulfill this role.
Operative Intelligence automatically identifies and quantifies (from 100% of inbound contacts) what the pain points are, where there are self service opportunities, the value generating activity options (revenue, retention, lifetime customer value), and chances to “make it easier” for customers.
You can see how small the “Value Generating” share of volume is in this example–but these proportions can change. Today’s call and contact center leaders will be more effective in driving organizational alignment to address pain points, invest in the right self service opportunities, reduce customer effort–and become true revenue centers for their organization.
If you’re a call or contact center leader ready to transform your team from reactive problem-solvers to proactive drivers of business growth, schedule a call with us today. We’d love to discuss how we can support your vision and goals.